My mother, Domka Huchulak, daughter of Ukranian homesteaders to Alberta, hid our family history. It took me 70 years to learn why she changed the subject whenever I asked her about my father or her own life. I finally learned that the web of lies she wove was born from a complex mixture of shame, regret, and revenge that other North American immigrants have also faced.
Readers of my memoir, MYSTERIOUS BUILDER OF SEATTLE LANDMARKS: Searching for My Father, have told me that they encountered similar situations in their own families. Except for original native American settlers, our forebears were all immigrants. Our diversity is our strength, but while children of immigrants begin their lives as Americans or Canadians, their parents necessarily bring the old country with them.
An Italian friend lost his father when he was six. Turns out that because his mother’s German family looked down on Italians, his father’s existence was banished from the home. Late in life my friend regretted never learning that his father came to the US with seven brothers. He lost his own father, but think of the rich family life he might have shared had he known about his seven uncles and many cousins.
Another friend who grew up during World War II was forbidden to mention Germany, homeland of his parents, even though they spoke German at home.
The father of a young Chinese-American reader died when she was four. She felt her mother erased his memory as revenge because she was angry that he died and left her with a child to raise in a foreign land.
We all have stories. Mine seems to strikes a chord. If you’re around, I’ll be speaking about it and signing books at the Birkdale Barnes and Noble in Huntersville NC on Sunday, April 15 from 1-3.